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Poisonous mushrooms kill Sebastiani wine family member

January 16, 1997

SAN FRANCISCO (AP) _ Sam Sebastiani Jr., a member of the famous wine family, died after eating poisonous wild mushrooms, the first death in an outbreak that has hospitalized at least nine people in recent weeks.

Sebastiani, 32, died Tuesday night, nine days after he ate the mushrooms, while on an outing with friends near his Santa Rosa home.

Known technically as Amanita phalloides, the ``death cap″ mushrooms can destroy the liver and account for 95 percent of mushroom poisoning cases around the world.

Sebastiani was one of three poisoning victims facing a possible liver transplant, but the operation was later ruled out because of his failing health, a family statement said.

His was the first fatality in a bumper crop of poisonous mushrooms has sent at least nine people to Northern California hospitals since Dec. 28. Six have recovered.

Those sickened by poisonous mushrooms include a father and two sons who were briefly hospitalized after they picked and ate mushrooms in a San Francisco-area park. Three people from Ukiah were also hospitalized and later released.

The two patients facing liver transplants remain hospitalized.

Experts say the death cap has flourished on the West Coast in recent years, extending from Fresno to Washington state and appearing in far greater numbers.

Sebastiani was the son of Sonoma Valley vintner Sam Sebastiani Sr. and Barbara Leedom. His family continues to run the Sebastiani Vineyards, one of California’s top producers of premium wine.

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